Civil Rights

Immigrant Coalition rallies to get driver’s licenses for undocumented residents

“This bill will allow students to get to school. It will allow workers to get to their jobs. It will allow families to meet their needs,” said Hector Perez-Aponte, coordinator for the Rhode Island Immigrant Coalition. “It will improve our economy and also make the roads safer [by] allowing people to get the licenses that they need and be properly tested in order to use those licenses.”
Photo for Immigrant Coalition rallies to get driver’s licenses for undocumented residents

Published on June 27, 2021
By Steve Ahlquist

The Immigration Coalition of Rhode Island held a press conference last Thursday to propose new legislation (H5305 / S0190) that will increase the accessibility of applying for a driver’s license for all Rhode Islanders regardless of immigration status.

This legislation seeks to increase the number of drivers with insurance, increase tax revenue, and allow families to travel to and from work in a safer manner.

The Senate bill, put together by Senator Frank Ciccone, would impact an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Rhode Islanders, says Senate Spokesperson Greg Pare. The driver IDs will be paid for by those applying for them through a $50 fee. The Senate bill was amended to take effect in 2022, per a request by the Department of Motor vehicles. As of this writing passage in the House remains doubtful.

“We stand in solidarity with the immigrant community and advocate for legislation that would finally bring driver’s licenses to all Rhode Islanders and make our roads safer,” said David Veliz, director of the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty, a member of the Immigrant Coalition.

Senator Frank Ciccone (Democrat, District 7, North Providence) is the Senate sponsor of the bill.

“You are the drivers of the economy in the city and in the state of Rhod Island – period,” said Representative Anastasia Williams (Democrat, District 9, Providence), the House sponsor of the bill, to the undocumented people of Rhode Island. “You’re paying your taxes, you’re following the rules, that does not mean that your rights should be removed.”

“This bill will allow students to get to school. It will allow workers to get to their jobs. It will allow families to meet their needs,” said Hector Perez-Aponte, coordinator for the Rhode Island Immigrant Coalition. “It will improve our economy and also make the roads safer [by] allowing people to get the licenses that they need and be properly tested in order to use those licenses.”

“It becomes harder to mobilize, every day, especially now – Now that we are mothers and have children and our children are our priority,” said Mayra Raymundo with Progreso Latino, explaining why driver’s licenses are so important. “It becomes harder to transport them to school and to medical visits and to even go and purchase food for them and for our entire family.”

“Undocumented people have chosen our state for decades and years and they are not going anywhere,” said Marcela Betancur, Policy Director of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University. “They are our family members, they are our friends and they are our neighbors…

“There are people here today who have been fighting for this for decades, who want others to acknowledge the humanity of individuals who simply for legal reasons are undocumented here today.”

“I am here today to share my voice for the women who cannot be here today because they were deported because they were driving without a license,” said Nadia Gonzalez, representing AMOR (Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance). “A lot of those women had to leave their children behind.”

“Undocumented licenses is not only for the Latino community,” said Representative Karen Alzate (Democrat, District 60, Pawtucket), who leads the General Assembly’s Black and Latino Caucus. “It is for all of Rhode Islanders who are here undocumented. Our Asian community, our Portuguese community, our African community. This is not only a Latino issue, and we need to continue to push this narrative forward.”

“We’re here to call for the approval of this bill for the necessity of being allowed to drive,” said Alejandra Leone, coordinator for the Olneyville Neighborhood Association (ONA). “We do this for our families and for our children.

“Around me are many people who are also undocumented. We cannot drive freely because of fear of being deported to our countries. We have our children and our spouses and our lives in this country…”

“This legislation has… a moral impact for our community because this legislation means liberation, means freedom for many people that live in the darkness,” said Pastor Santiago Rodriguez.

“I’m here as a mom, woman, undocumented constituent to ask you to pass [the legislation] that will provide driving privileges for me and my undocumented community,” said Providence resident Sucely Murillo.

Representative Williams took questions from reporters:

Rhode Island Latin Dance gave a wonderful performance at the end of the program:

Senator Cicchino and Representative Williams

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